NEW YORK – “With love, Jack”. A post card mailed before departure by the Titanic’s radiotelegraph officer will be auctioned in the United States, in Boston, Massachusetts. The goal is to raise at least 15,000 dollars, but in the meantime the announcement, 109 years after one of the greatest tragedies of the sea, serves to bring one of its controversial characters out of oblivion again, on which two opposite versions circulate: some they consider him the hero who saved hundreds of people, others one of the causes of the disaster. The signature on the postcard is Jack Phillips, 25, chief telegraph operator on the ocean liner that sank on April 15, 1912.
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The postcard was sent on March 7 to her sister Elsie, in Ireland, five weeks before the historic inaugural crossing of the ocean, to New York City, of what had been described as the “unsinkable ship.” Phillips wrote of “being very busy at work”. “I hope – he added – to leave on Monday and arrive in Southampton on Wednesday afternoon. I hope you’re fine”. It was probably the last communication to the family from the young English telegraph operator, before the Titanic crashed into an iceberg.
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That was the moment when Phillips turned into a hero, a real version of Jack Dawson played by Leonardo DiCaprio in the ’97 movie “Titanic”. While all the passengers and most of the crew were looking for an escape route, the radio operator decided to stay in his place. From the telegraph room, Phillips sent dozens of help messages, hoping to reach one of the ships passing through the area. The Sos was picked up by the British Carpathia, sailing on the Liverpool-Boston route.
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The intervention proved decisive: of the more than two thousand people aboard the Titanic, 705 were saved. The victims were between 1490 and 1635. A precise count has never been possible to do so. According to some, the disaster could have been avoided and Phillips was one of the causes. Struggling with a super job, during navigation, aggravated by an interruption of connections, the radio operator would not have responded to reports from other ships, which had indicated the dangerous presence of icebergs.
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The warning issued by the steamship Mesaba was not reported to the control room. In the autobiography of one of the surviving officers, it is said that the chief telegraph operator had placed the paper under his elbow, determined to solve a technical problem first. Then he forgot to bring the notice to the commander. Another message, sent by the Californian ship, would have been ignored.
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Philllips could not defend himself from the allegations. After the impact, while the Titanic was sinking, the telegraph operator continued to do his job, despite the icy ocean water invading the hall. Then, once they reached the rescue, Phillips had tried to save himself by getting into a small boat, but he died from freezing.